UTICA, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) — Over 1,100 sixth graders from across Oneida County voted on the county’s new bird, flower and tree. On Friday, November 3, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente announced the results in an unveiling at Westmoreland Upper Elementary School.
“Symbols play an important part in the identity of a community,” Picente said. “That’s why for our 225th anniversary, I wanted to give our residents a way to recognize the natural beauty of Oneida County and give them an even greater sense of pride in the place they call home. What better way to accomplish this than enlisting the young people who will carry on our traditions and lead this county into the future?”
The students — all sixth-graders from 23 different schools across the county — voted in an online poll distributed and tabulated by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Teachers of the participating classes were also encouraged to incorporate the possible county symbols into their lesson plans.
“We appreciate the opportunity given to us by County Executive Picente to have our students engage in meaningful activities such as voting for issues that affect their community,” Westmoreland Central School District Superintendent Rocco Migliori said in a statement. “Being involved in this process teaches them that their voices matter and that they do have a say. This was a great experience for our students that also served as an authentic learning activity about climate, weather and nature, and why certain plants and trees thrive in particular areas.”
In the end, 43% voted to name the Tufted Titmouse the Oneida County bird, beating out the Blue Jay and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The tufted titmouse are common in eastern deciduous forests, and are cavity nesting birds found year-round across the state.
With 57% of the vote, trillium was voted the county’s flower, beating out milkweed and bee balm. Trillium are white flowers that bloom in May. They produce pollen, but not nectar, and their seeds are spread by ants. They can be found all over Oneida County, but can be found particularly in the Rome Sand Plains area.
With an overwhelming 70% of the vote, the Red Maple beat out hemlock and white pine trees. Red maples are used commercially for their lumber and small-scale maple syrup production. The tree is best known for its’ brilliant yellow, orange and red foliage in the fall. It is able to produce roots to suit its growing site from a young age, making it able to live in a large number of habitats.
In honor of the event today, a red maple will be planted by the county at each of the 23 participating schools, along with a commemorative plaque.
“Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County was honored to work with the Oneida County Youth Bureau on County Executive Picente’s initiative to engage students in naming the official county bird, flower and tree,” said CCE Executive Director Mary Beth McEwen said in a statement. “These symbols provide residents a physical, spiritual and cultural connection to our community. This was an exciting way to help celebrate the first 225 years of Oneida County, inspire pride among students and residents, and perhaps, even encourage future ornithologists, horticulturists and dendrologists.”